Print magazines featuring tributes to celebrities or public figures can deliver a large spike in readership compared to typical issues of the same titles – but the results vary widely.
New research from GfK MRI shows that, among the tribute issues evaluated, print magazines with cover images of Robin Williams, Muhammad Ali, Patrick Swayze and Prince prompted the biggest lifts in average issue readership across multiple issues: 29%, 28%, 25% and 24%, respectively.
The findings are based on an analysis of 112 magazine issues—most of them in the entertainment genre—from February 2008 to July 2016. They are drawn from GfK MRI’s Issue Specific readership studies, which show how specific magazine issues perform relative to the titles’ average performance over a one-year survey period. This analysis tracked only celebrities and public figures who were featured on at least three magazine covers.
Single issues featuring Robin Williams (People; Dec. 29, 2014), Muhammad Ali (Sports Illustrated; June 13, 2016 and TIME, June 20, 2016) and Prince (Rolling Stone; May 19, 2016) all achieved 40% lifts compared to typical issues of those magazines. (The 40% level is the maximum reflected in this analysis.) The biggest increase for Patrick Swayze was 32% (People; Sept. 28, 2009).
On the other hand, while 21 issues featured Michael Jackson on their covers, the biggest lift in single-issue readership was 12%, for the July 10, 2009 edition of Entertainment Weekly. Collectively, the Michael Jackson issues performed at 5% below typical readership levels for those titles. And among 10 issues with Whitney Houston covers, the highest lift was 17%, for the April 2012 issue of Essence, with a collective performance of 1% below normal levels.
Issue Specific data supplement the company’s 12-month readership averages to show how many people had the opportunity to see ads within a given issue of a magazine. To learn how GfK MRI’s Issue Specific measurement can help you understand magazine ROI, contact your GfK MRI sales representative or Risa Becker.
Public figures like Steve Jobs produced higher readership gains for business and news titles like FORTUNE, The Economist and TIME than in issues within other genres. For example, the November 7, 2011 issue of FORTUNE indexed performed at 39% above typical readership for that magazine; but the October 27, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone with Jobs on the cover performed at 6% below the title’s usual readership. Also under-indexing with Jobs were the Oct. 17, 2011 issue of The New Yorker and the Oct. 24, 2011 issue of People.
For adults ages 35-54, the best performing tribute titles featured, in order, Patrick Swayze, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Robin Williams and David Bowie. For adults ages 55+, the top performers were Paul Newman, Patrick Swayze and Robin Williams.